Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Which We Spend The Day On Camera

Well today was kind of surreal.

A week or two ago Jeremy sort of casually mentioned that the Warrior Transition Battalion with the army was making a training video about the process that wounded soldiers go through and would like to interview our family for it some time in the future.  We aren't normally comfortable with the idea of television interviews.  However since this was for the army and not the general public (though it will be on the WTB website eventually so I suppose the general public will have access to it), would be part of a bigger project not focused specifically on our family, and wasn't a mainstream media source, we decided after some discussion that we'd agree to do it.

And then later that week he let me know that they wanted to shoot a little bit of footage at our house.  I told him that would be okay, as long as he gave me some sort of advance notice so that I'd be able to get everything cleaned up.  In Jeremy's world, "advance notice" apparently means "48 hours," because he casually mentioned to me on Monday that they'd be coming today.  Keep in mind that I'd been gone for the whole weekend, and so the normal housekeeping I do then didn't happen, and also I was playing catch-up on all the things I'd gotten behind on during Connor's huge seizure crisis of the last couple weeks.  So I was a little frazzled, but since I thought the interview was going to be starting fairly late in the morning I figured I could still get things cleaned up in a reasonable fashion between Tuesday night and this morning.  Of course Tuesday evening he informs me that I have the time wrong, and they're actually planning on being here at 8:00am.

My reaction was not pretty.

So I got up at an obscenely early hour and cleaned the living room, kitchen and library area, which were the most likely places they'd be filming.  Then I hopped in the shower at the last minute and cleaned up just in time for the cars to start arriving.  I sort of expected this to be a fairly low-key affair, with maybe an interviewer and a camera man, and that we'd sit down and talk and then they'd edit out all the times we said "um" or forgot the question or something.  So I was a little bit thrown when Jeremy answered the door and there were twice that many people standing on our porch, who all introduced themselves and then promptly began hauling in a large amount of extremely sophisticated looking equipment (and apparently they were traveling light-- I have no idea how much equipment they normally carry, but I'm not sure it would have fit in my house).  They were all extremely nice, they all knew exactly what they were doing, and pretty soon our house was covered in lights on stands, this huge camera was set up, the sound guy was getting out his boom microphone and it was clearly evident that Jeremy and I had slightly underestimated the scale of this project.

It took almost an hour to set up the first (yes, the first) set for shooting-- this one in the living room for our individual interviews-- and the process involved rearranging a good portion of our furniture and a futile search of our house for an appropriate lamp to add to the set as background ambiance.  Apparently all of our lamps were either too short or too tall, and a lamp in the background was essential for shooting the scene-- something about softening up the stone background of our fireplace-- and that's how I found myself ringing the doorbell over at our neighbor's house with the producer and cinematographer both in tow to ask if I could borrow a medium size table lamp and also a potted plant.

See why today was kind of surreal?

So anyway, once the decided-upon lamp and potted plant were arranged and crisis was averted they made Jeremy wear makeup, which I thought was pretty hilarious.  I didn't actually get to see the application process though because I was in the back room trying to keep Connor quiet while Jer's interview was filmed.  Then it was my turn, and I guess I shouldn't have laughed at Jeremy.  As a result I had to change clothes twice because my outfit blended into the background too much, and then my hair decided to demonstrate how static electricity works and was all over the place so it ended up cemented to my head, and after that I needed more makeup applied and then my hair started going crazy again and then the pizza guy rang the doorbell in the middle of the shoot.  Based on how my interview went I suspect I may end up being related to (the aptly named) "Sir Not Appearing In This Film."

Anyway, after we were done in the living room they filmed Jeremy and I together in our kitchen drinking "coffee" (i.e. water in coffee cups) and discussing army meetings and classes and whatnot very seriously.  Or at least it started out seriously, but degraded after about seven or eight takes ruined by how we kept drinking out of our cups simultaneously.  Then we started making smart aleck comments to each other, because we can only restrain our natural sarcasm for so long, and Jeremy began doing that nervous habit where he stands on one foot and bangs the other against something, in this case the cabinets, and I kicked him in the shins.  I really feel for whoever ends up having to edit our footage.

The camera crew would have been perfectly justified in packing up and leaving after that as Jeremy and I were rapidly degrading as far as maturity level goes, but instead we did a shot in the kitchen (Jeremy and Connor in wheelchairs and me reading Fifteen Animals to Connor and thus signing "Bob" about eight billion times).  Then we moved back into the living room, where Jeremy and I sat on the couch with Connor and attempted to interest him in a book, but instead the little guy just spent the entire time staring directly at the lights and signing "Light!  Light!" over and over again.  I'm pretty sure he meant something like "Hey guys!  Why are you trying to make me look at this stupid book when there are all these people and giant lights and weird pieces of equipment in our house?  Don't you all notice anything?"  He had a point.

So after that I figured we would be done.  Wrong.  We were just done with the shots inside the house.

Twenty minutes later we found ourselves walking up and down the sidewalk in our neighborhood with the crew filming and all of our neighbors driving by trying to figure out what the heck was going on.  After that they made Jeremy don his bike gear (complete with the Bubble Butt Pants) and he was filmed putting on his helmet a few times, and then getting on his bike a few more times, and then riding up and down the street for about thirty minutes, with a short intermission to track down Loki, who had escaped the house and was found crouched underneath our cypress tree, and Cricket, who was thought to have escaped but was found curled up asleep on our bed. 

The crew packed up and left at about 3:30 in the afternoon.  Tomorrow morning we'll head down to post, where they're filming some more.  This training video stuff is hard work. 

In conclusion, that was without a doubt one of the weirdest days I've had so far this year.  Don't get me wrong; everyone was extremely nice and professional, they put my house back together pretty much how it was when they arrived, and they fed us pizza to boot so it certainly wasn't weird in a bad way.

But still.  Weird.



Mary said...

Just imagine how weird a day filming for one of those.. other.. kinds of shows would be!

Jess said...

. . . other kinds of shows?

I'm pretty sure the army doesn't do porn.

Jess said...

Oh, wait. You meant PUBLIC shows. Like MAINSTREAM TELEVISION shows. I totally knew that.

Yeah, that would be weird.

Lin said...

So those "reality" shows aren't as "real" and unrehearsed, planned, etc. as they seem, eh? ;)

gloria said...

That's funny. How was Connor through all of this change to his routine? And where/when will the footage be released?

Julia said...

Sounds both fascinating and exhausting! So how come you can't have real coffee while on camera?

Herding Grasshoppers said...

So, please do tell us when and where us non-military folks can see this, someday!

Christy said...

Very strange, but kind of a neat experience. ;) Let us know when it's on the site - I am military and would like to see it.

Jess said...

Gloria, Connor was mostly concerned about the fact that there were all these weird things going on in our house, and yet we were completely ignoring them and trying to act normally. He kept trying to get us to look at the lights and the camera-- I imagine he thought we were pretty dumb not to notice all the stuff going on! Otherwise he was fine; he actually behaved really well.
Julia, we didn't have time to make real coffee, and we didn't want to mess up the kitchen. So water it was.
HG and Christy-- I have no idea when this thing is going to come out, but I would assume not for a few months. And don't expect a lot of footage of us-- it is, after all, a training video and not the McGuffey Show. Which would be a very sarcastic show, and would probably involve a lot of poop. So that's probably for the best.

Julia O'C said...

I love how you're *pretty sure* the army doesn't do porn! :)

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